I’m hosting an excerpt today from creative non-fiction, religion and spirituality book “The Luddite’s Guide to Technology”. I hope you enjoy this excerpt. This excerpt comes from the essay with the same name as the book’s title.
The Luddite’s Guide to Technology:
Since the Bridegroom was taken from the disciples, it has been a part of the Orthodox Church’s practice to fast. What is expected in the ideal has undergone changes, and one’s own practice is done in submission to one’s priest. The priest may work on how to best relax rules in many cases so that your fasting is a load you can shoulder. There is something of a saying, “As always, ask your priest,” and that goes for fasting from technology too. Meaning, specifically, that if you read this article and want to start fasting from technologies, and your priest says that it won’t be helpful, leave this article alone and follow your priest’s guidance.
From ancient times there has been a sense that we need to transcend ourselves. When we fast, we choose to set limits and master our belly, at least partly. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food—maybe, but God will destroy them both.” So the Apostle answered the hedonists of his day. The teaching of fasting is that you are more than the sum of your appetites, and we can grow by giving something up in days and seasons. And really fasting from foods is not saying, “I choose to be greater than this particular luxury,” but “I choose to be greater than this necessity.” Over ninety-nine percent of all humans who have ever lived never saw a piece of modern technology: Christ and his disciples reached far and wide without the benefit of even the most obsolete of eletronic communication technologies. And monks have often turned back on what luxuries were available to them: hence in works like thePhilokalia or the Ladder extol the virtue of sleeping on the floor. If we fast from technologies, we do not abstain from basic nourishment, but what Emperors and kings never heard of. At one monastery where monks lived in cells without running water or electricity, a monk commented that peasants and for that matter kings lived their whole lives without tasting these, or finding them a necessity. (Even Solomon in all his splendor did not have a Facebook page.)
In Orthodoxy, if a person is not able to handle the quasi-vegan diet in fasting periods, a priest may relax the fast, not giving carte blanche to eat anything the parishioner wants, but suggesting that the parishioner relax the fast to some degree, eating some fish or an egg. This basic principle of fasting is applicable to technology: rather than immediately go cold turkey on certain technologies, use “some fish or an egg” in terms of older technologies. Instead of texting for a conversation, drive over to a nearby friend.
(Have you ever noticed that during Lent many Orthodox Christians cut down or eliminate their use of Facebook?)
Donald Knuth, one of the leading lights in computer science, got rid of his email address well over a decade ago. He said that email was good for being on top of the world, and what he wanted was to be at the bottom of the world and do research. In other words, he had certain goals, and he found that email was not a helpful luxury in reaching those goals.
About The Book
Author: CJS Hayward
Genre: creative non-fiction / religion and spirituality / technology – social aspects
Mammon, as it is challenged in the Sermon on the Mount, represents such wealth and possessions as one could have two thousand years ago. But that is merely beer as contrasted to the eighty proof whisky our day has concocted. The Sermon on the Mount aims to put us in the driver’s seat and not what you could possess in ancient times, and if the Sermon on the Mount says something about metaphorical beer, perhaps there are implications for an age where something more like eighty proof whisky is all around us.
Some have asked, “If a much lesser C.S. Lewis were Orthodox, what would he be like?” And the answer may well be, “CJS Hayward.”
Hayward has lived in the U.S., Malaysia, England, and France, and holds master’s degrees bridging math and computers (UIUC), and philosophy and theology (Cambridge).